Archive | August 2014

“The Loveable Unlovable”

August 24, 2014
Stetson Memorial United Methodist Church
Sermon Series on “All My Day: A Summer of Prayer”
Inspired by Marcia McFee
Sermon 8 of series-
“Love”
Luke 6:27-36 NIV Bible
1 John 3:11-18 NIV Bible
http://www.songlyrics.com/carolyn-arends/they-ll-know-we-are-christians-by-our-love-lyrics/#ao6zM5TDX02btVrO.99

Let us pray… (Pray for God’s illumination…)

We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord
We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord
And we pray that all unity may one day be restored
And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love
They will know we are Christians by our love

I have been talking about the Devo Magazine that the youth have been reading and how thoughtful these writers have been. They are just kids but their understanding of God is just astounding. I mean these kids really have a lot to say and they are very profound. For instance, in the March thru May edition, there was one week al about love….radical love. They talked about radical love and stepping out in faith and love to and for others. They understood that love is a verb and when you love it is an action rather than an emotion. One even talked about how love is life changing not only for the other person but for the giver as well. They understood that Jesus’ love was radical…something that was different from what the religious leaders taught in the Synagogue. It is hard to love sometimes. Especially when someone is “unlovable”.

This summer, we are invited to pray “All My Days” and to make a habit of prayer wherever you are. Each Sunday in worship we have focused on one of the steps of the prayer beads. My continued hope is that our Summer Sermon Series “All My Days: A Summer of Prayer” will help us learn a way of prayer that will bring us closer to the maker of all we see.

I hope we have learned a few things as we have been going through the beads on the string. Let’s see…the Gold Bead…which reminds us to begin with adoration ….the bumpy beady….that is to remind us to let go and let God….the embrace of silence with the “holey Bead” …the steeping stone bead…our journey of faith…the black…the black and white…the grey bead…we are to bring our spiritual struggles to God….and the green bead, represents concern…not worries but concerns.

This week…the first red one on the string…is a bead…a prayer…that may be difficult. Now it is the bead for love but not just the love you feel for family and friends. This bead is also about love of the “unlovable” people in our lives. You know those people that just get under our skin…those who we just can’t stand…those who may have caused us harm in the past.

We will work with each other, we will work side by side
We will work with each other, we will work side by side
And we’ll guard each one’s dignity and save each one’s pride
And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love
They will know we are Christians by our love

The scripture I read this morning is all about loving. But it is not about your every day type of love, everyone can feel that, it is about that love that stretches you…about a love that has nothing to do with how you feel…it is an intentional love. It is easy to love those who are nice to you and are your friends but it is a whole other ball game when we are told to love those who we…well…really can’t stand. We all have those “unlovable” people in our lives. But it is how we react towards them that really truly matters.

1st John talks more about this kind of love. The epistle talks about a love that is in action. Let me read to you what it has to say about this love action. I am reading from chapter 3 verses 11 thru 18…listen about this radical way of loving and see if this is a kind of love may be what Christians need in their lives…

More on Love and Hatred
11 For this is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another. 12 Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own actions were evil and his brother’s were righteous. 13 Do not be surprised, my brothers and sisters,[a] if the world hates you. 14 We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other. Anyone who does not love remains in death. 15 Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him.
16 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. 17 If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? 18 Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.
It is all about an action not just a “thing” called love.

We will walk with each other, we will walk hand in hand
We will walk with each other, we will walk hand in hand
And together we’ll spread the news that God is in our land
And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love
They will know we are Christians by our love

As a matter of fact, God loves us so much that we are pursued by His love for us. In the book study from this summer “Having A Mary Heart In A Martha World”, we have read and heard about this type of love God has for us. There was one week that the video that we watched got me really thinking. It stated “because of the fall, God’s holiness required separation in the form of the temple veil. But then Jesus came as the final sacrifice to reconcile us to God. The veil was “torn in two from top to bottom” when Jesus breathed His last breath.” God pursed humanity and still does to this day because of the radical love that He has for us. Now if God has showed us this kind of love, how can we, in gratitude for what He has done, not show the same love for those who are the “unlovable” in our own lives. Remember how Jesus acted on the Cross. Remember His prayer…forgive them Father for they know not what they (we) do…radical love in action.

Love is patient, love is kind
Never boasts, not full of pride
Always hopes, and it always trusts
The evidence of Christ in us
This is my commandment that you love one another
That your joy may be full

Love, this is what we are called to do. Not just that emotional love but that radical love that causes us to act in love even when we don’t feel so loving towards others. As we pray for those we love and not so much love, we grow in love. As we pray for those unlovable people in our lives we begin to actually love them in spite of themselves. As we pray for those who are not “part of our circle of friends” we begin to let them into that very same circle. We may need to begin by praying for ourselves…praying that we will begin to love those unlovable people. Maybe if we start there we can not only change how we feel but have a radical change and new vision of what love really is. You see love is not just a word, it’s a noun and a verb, and hiding it is absurd.

Maybe…just maybe…as we learn to pray for and love one another, lives will be changed. Maybe if we show that radical love that Jesus showed from the Cross our lives will be changed. Perhaps then we will truly be known by our love…perhaps that is when the tide will change for humanity. Perhaps then and only then God’s Kingdom will come on earth as it is in heaven. But it begins with you and me deciding to be radical in how we love and view others. Let us look to the example of our Risen Lord Jesus Christ…the perfector of our faith for it is through Him we can do all things…even love and pray for the unlovable that are in our lives and in the world. Maybe…just maybe…

Let us pray…pray about those we love and not so much love in our lives…
And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love
They will know we are Christians by our love
Amen

“A Weight Upon The Heart”

August 17, 2014
Stetson Memorial United Methodist Church
Sermon Series on “All My Day: A Summer of Prayer”
Inspired by Marcia McFee
Sermon 7 of series-
“Concern”
John 17:6-25 NIV Bible

Let us pray… (Pray for God’s illumination…)

Have you ever had anything that was just a weight upon your heart? You know…that thing that keeps you up at night. You are truly concerned about a person or situation and you just can’t get it out of your head.

Now that the girls are getting older, I find myself in prayer more often than before. I never really thought much about them going out into the world. I know they have been brought up knowing God and God’s love for them. I find myself praying for them as they leave the house. It is hard for kids, I think, living in the world as it is today. There are so many things that bombard their minds during the day, things that are of this world, things that could lead them to stray away from God, things that could be dangerous for them. The list just goes on and on. They are near and dear to my heart and at times it really weighs upon my heart. It truly concerns me that they are going out into the world sometimes…

This summer, we are invited to pray “All My Days” and to make a habit of prayer wherever you are. Each Sunday in worship we have focused on one of the steps of the prayer beads but you are encouraged to pray these categories all summer long. I would ask that you take out your beads if you brought them with you this morning. My continued hope is that our Summer Sermon Series “All My Days: A Summer of Prayer” will help us learn a way of prayer that will bring us closer to the maker of all we see.

I hope we have learned a few things as we have been going through the beads on the string. Remember…the Gold Bead…which reminds us to begin with adoration and the second bead….the bumpy beady….that is to remind us to let go and let God. The “holey Bead” invites us to sit in silence, listen for what God has to say. Then the steeping stone bead, our journey of faith. The next bead …the black…the black and white…the grey bead…we are reminded to bring our spiritual struggles to God. The next bead, the green bead, represents concern. What concerns you most in life?

Now…we’ve talked about the worry in our lives…about “Letting Go and Let God”…but what about our concerns. Are we not trusting God if we have “concerns”? Now there is a difference between worry and concern…we learned that in the book study of Mary and Martha.
• Concern=Involves a legitimate threat, is specific (one thing), addresses the problem, solves problems, looks to God for answer.
And
• Worry=is often unfounded, is generalized (spreads to many things), obsesses about the problem, creates more problems, looks to self or other people for answer.
Jesus modeled prayer for you and me. We read many accounts in the bible of when Jesus went away, by Himself, to pray. We read some of those prayers in the bible and some are about things and situations that concerned Him about humanity. As a matter of fact, Jesus, just before He was betrayed and arrested, prayed prayers if concern. Three of them are found in the Gospel of John chapter 17…as a matter of fact it is all of chapter 17. The first in this series of prayers was for Him-self. It was time for Him to complete the purpose He came for and now it was time for Him to do his final ministerial act for humanity. He was about to die for all of humanity.

The next part of the prayer is the one I read this morning as Jesus prayed for the disciples that were with Him as He was healing and bringing the Good News to a hurting, still hurting, world. Jesus was concerned for them. He wanted them to be protected from the evil one who is in the world. He was concerned for them because they have now become in the world but not part of the world because of their faith in Jesus.
And then Jesus does something that is truly hope and life giving to me. In the third part of the prayer, Jesus prays for all believers to come. Listen to this part of His prayer that is found in John 17 verses 20-25…now as I read this prayer, I want you to put your name in where ever you hear the word “their, they and them” because Jesus is praying for you and for me…future believers…

Jesus Prays for All Believers
20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— 23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.
24 “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.
25 “Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. 26 I have made you[e] known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.”

Jesus, who taught the first disciples how to pray, was modeling a prayer of concern for those around him and those yet to be. Even the Lord Prayer that we prayed just a few minutes ago has a concern…request…from God…give us this day our daily bread….forgive us of our trespasses…and lead us not into temptation…

So…is it a matter of distrust if we have concerns in our lives. It becomes a matter of distrust of we don’t bring those concerns to God. We doubt God and His goodness and mercy when we keep them to ourselves. It is an act of disbelief when we think God is not concerned with our concerns. If even Jesus…the perfector of our faith…brought His concerns to His heavenly Father…well…you get the picture.
Are there things that are concerning you and you don’t know who to turn to for help? Are you having trouble believing that God wants to hear you “silly concern”? Is your heart heavy laden with concern? Come to the cross of our Risen Lord Jesus Christ who knows what it is like to have concerns upon the heart. Come to the One who will share your concern with you and lighten your load. Come and lay your concern down at the feet of the Shepherd and rest in the meadow by the still waters of our Risen Lord, Jesus Christ, and live…

Let us pray…pray about those concerns that we bring to God…

Amen

“G.W.E.”

August 3, 2014
Stetson Memorial United Methodist Church
Sermon Series on “All My Day: A Summer of Prayer”
Inspired by Marcia McFee
Sermon 6 of series-
“Spiritual Struggles”
Genesis 32:22-28 Common English Bible
Psalm 139:1-14 NIV Bible
“The Long and Winding Road” The Beatles

“G.W.E.”

Let us pray… (Pray for God’s illumination…)

I remember growing up I used to always hate Saturday afternoons. My brother and I would be watching T.V. together and all of the sudden wrestling would come on the T.V. I hated wrestling but my brother loved it…the old W.W.E….World Wrestling Entertainment. Well my brother would get entertainment out of it and all I would get is bored. I think he liked it so that he could learn some moves to try out on me later that day. What is so mesmerizing about wrestling any way? Two guys throwing each other around the ring. I just don’t get it.

Some times when I think about it…our faith walks can be kind of like a wrestling match with God. We wrestle with God over this or that…instead of W.W.E. I like to call it G.W.E….God Wrestling Entertainment… Boy I am sure He must get some entertainment out of me sometimes. He knows He will win but the way I struggle must make Him giggle sometimes. Why do we wrestle at times in our Faith Walk? God usually wins out but we still have to try to put Him in some type of Suplex or something trying to have our own way…

This summer, we are invited to pray “All My Days” and to make a habit of prayer wherever you are. Each Sunday in worship we have focused on one of the steps of the prayer beads but you are encouraged to pray these categories all summer long. I would ask that you take out your beads if you brought them with you this morning. My continued hope is that our Summer Sermon Series “All My Days: A Summer of Prayer” will help us learn a way of prayer that will bring us closer to the maker of all we see.

I don’t know about you but I have had an awesome time so far as we have been going through the beads on the string. Remember…the Gold Bead…which reminds us to begin with adoration and the second bead….the bumpy beady….that is to remind us to let go and let God. The “holey Bead” invites us to sit in silence, listen for what God has to say. Then the steeping stone bead, our journey of faith. What a hard bead it is. To think our Faith Journey can lead others to God as He illuminates our walk for others to see. The next bead is one that is very important in our journey of life. The black…the black and white…the grey bead…it represents our struggles in our faith. What do we struggle with each day…what are we struggling with spiritually?

So…why do we struggle so much? Through experience we know that God will win out in the end. There is no hiding from God as the Psalm I read this morning tells us. No matter where we try to go…no matter where we try to hide…God finds us… As Paul says…at times “we know what we should do but we do what we shouldn’t do.” I guess that is human nature. We want to be in charge and we know better than anyone else what we should do. But there are those times that while we are “doing our own thing…thinking our own ways” God breaks through and we begin to wrestle with Him about our thoughts and attitudes.

There is a story in the Bible that talks about a wrestling match. It is one that I think of when my hip starts bothering me at times. I think to myself…OK Lord, what am I wrestling with you on? It is the wrestling match between Jacob and God. It is found in Genesis 32 verses 22-28. Listen to the commentary on this match and see if you can put yourself in Jacob’s place from time to time…

Jacob wrestles with God
Jacob got up during the night, took his two wives, his two women servants, and his eleven sons, and crossed the Jabbok River’s shallow water. He took them and everything that belonged to him, and he helped them cross the river. But Jacob stayed apart by himself, and a man wrestled with him until dawn broke. When the man saw that he couldn’t defeat Jacob, he grabbed Jacob’s thigh and tore a muscle in Jacob’s thigh as he wrestled with him. The man said, “Let me go because the dawn is breaking.”But Jacob said, “I won’t let you go until you bless me.”
He said to Jacob, “What’s your name?” and he said, “Jacob.” Then he said, “Your name won’t be Jacob any longer, but Israel, because you struggled with God and with men and won.”

Jacob…now Israel…won but at what cost. He walked with pain and a limp for the rest of his life. It can be like that sometimes when we wrestle with God. God usually wins in the end and we walk away limping. God wants us to bring those things that we struggle with to Him in prayer so that He can help us with those things that can take us away from His loving care if we let them. He wants us to be real with Him with our struggles. Remember as the psalmist wrote…God knows everything about us so we shouldn’t try to be something we are not.

So…what are you struggling with today? Being judgmental or gossiping…maybe causing another to walk away from the church…being harsh on yourself and on others…un-forgiveness or envy…how about not spending alone time with God…no matter what it maybe, God wants us to come to him with our struggles so that together they can be conquered. As we come to God, through our Risen Lord, Jesus Christ, in prayer we will find our burdens lifted and our struggles ended. So what are you struggling with? Take it to the Lord in prayer and feel the wrestling match end and come away stronger, wiser and closer to God. Or…we can go along in life limping as our spiritual life has been “put out of joint.” The choice is yours and mine to make. Which will you choose?

Let us pray…pray about those things we struggle within our spiritual life…

Amen